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UT San Antonio will get $3M a year to expand free tuition after endowment announcement

The University of Texas at San Antonio will receive $3 million a year to expand free tuition for its students.

UT System officials visited the UTSA Downtown Campus on Monday to announce the allocation as part of a $300 million systemwide endowment.

The permanent endowment program, called Promise Plus, originally was created by UT System regents in 2019 with a $167 million investment for tuition support at UT-Austin.

Two weeks ago, the regents unanimously approved increasing the total of the endowment to $300 million and distributing it among seven UT institutions: UTSA, UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-El Paso, UT-Permian Basin, UT-Rio Grande Valley and UT-Tyler.

“I truly believe this Promise program will impact the lives of students and families all across the state,” UT regents Chairman Kevin P. Eltife said. “There’s a lot of talk about student debt, and we are trying to do our part to tackle the issue on the front end of this spectrum.”

The system will distribute about $15 million through the endowment this first year, Eltife said, with one of the largest checks going to UTSA, under the expectation that the university will receive at least $3 million annually going forward.

“It will take some time, but we hope that in future years we can add to the endowment,” Eltife said. “That’s our goal, to keep expanding the reach to low-income and middle-income students.”

At UTSA, officials are using the funds to expand the Bold Promise program, which was created in 2019 to cover full tuition and fees for qualifying incoming freshmen with a family income of no more than $50,500 annually. Now, the income ceiling has been raised to $70,000 to welcome more students into the program.

“It really broadens the number of young people that are eligible,” UTSA President Taylor Eighmy said. “And we are interested, if we can at the right time, in eventually perhaps increasing the family income level to something higher than $70,000.”

Eltife and UT System Chancellor James Milliken delivered the news in person to the UTSA community during a news conference Monday, joined by Eighmy, students, and area leaders.

“There’s no question that education beyond high school is a great agent for economic mobility, but only a third of Americans believe that college is available for everyone,” Milliken said. “People are rightfully concerned of having crushing debt when they leave college. So, this is a way to try to make it more broadly available and to reduce the level of debt that people have.”

Since its inception, over 5,600 students have qualified for the Bold Promise program. About 1,700 students have enrolled in it in the fall 2020 and fall 2021 cohorts, with 78 percent of them identifying as Hispanic or Latino and 37 percent being from Bexar County.

These latest cohorts of students have shown a retention rate of 82 percent, higher than the 77 percent rate by the rest of the student population, a success indicator that “proves that when given the right opportunity and the right environment, students from all backgrounds can succeed,” Eighmy said.

The university has identified about 3,800 students already who could take advantage of the new Bold Promise program starting in fall 2022.

The endowment is set to be distributed in perpetuity. In San Antonio, officials are expecting it to generate about $65 million over time.

“Anything we can do to reduce the cost of attendance is very important,” Eighmy said. “Whether we are providing need-based financial aid or merit-based financial aid, all of those levers that we pull are very important to get students to come to UTSA and to succeed at UTSA.”


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